After being told “I’m going to give you the rope, you can either hang yourself with it or build a bridge to move your career forward,” by Conrad Rickett, one of the executive producers of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” University of Utah alumnus Milan Vasic took this advice to heart. He has since centered his career around “building bridges” with whatever life has given him.
Vasic graduated from the U in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication with a television and production emphasis. The journey to graduation was filled with memorable experiences. One teacher in particular, Bryant Packard, sparked Vasic’s love for film production.
“I remember vividly having to a do a paper on the Disney movie ‘Pinocchio’ and learning how they were using a triple screen to give motion to the animation, so it wasn’t just a still shot, it was a camera moving through the first level of animation, which [was] like a mountain and some clouds and stuff, and then it would get closer,” Vasic said. “It was like a triple paned animation that they did. That was just fascinating to me.”
Another instructor, Kent Maxwell, challenged Vasic to think outside of the box.
“He gave us really hard assignments, like he [would say] ‘Okay this week you have to just turn the camera on … you cannot move it, and something really interesting has to happen in front of the camera.’ And that would really make you pull yourself out of the box.”
After college, Vasic bounced between a few jobs, including working with EMT crews in the news industry, selling real estate and working at a lodge. During each of these jobs, he volunteered for the Sundance Film Festival, where he eventually became the assistant theater manager for the Eccles Theater.
Deciding that his odd jobs weren’t his true passion, Vasic packed up and moved to California to pursue his dream of working in the film industry. He worked unpaid internships before he landed his first gig in the industry as a production assistant at Animal Planet, which eventually lead him to one of his biggest projects, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
“I [was originally] hired to be an assistant location manager,” Vasic recalled. “[But] the day I landed the location manager quit. Her father had some health troubles and she couldn’t stay, so she … left. They asked me if I could do it and I said absolutely, not really knowing what it encompassed. … After I hung up the phone with production I called everyone I knew in the industry and said ‘What the hell does a location manager do?’ Permits, safety, trash, knocking on doors, figuring out where to park trucks, etc. Did that for 14 years with the show.”
Ten years after landing that gig, Vasic started up his first passion project, “Minds in the Water,” a documentary about professional surfer Dave Rastovich and his mission to save ocean wildlife from the harmful effects of pollution. Vasic fell in love with documentaries, and he plans on pursuing more projects of this type in the future.
“I am looking forward to doing the next one in that same vein which will maybe be about protecting sharks or … climate change issues,” he said.
His advice to future artists is simple: Love the industry and prove it every day.
“If you don’t like this industry, then get the hell out,” Vasic said. “It’s hard. It is highly rewarding and there are a lot of wonderful things about it, but if you’re going to show up on set grumpy and late and lethargic and don’t want to do your job, you don’t belong there. And I wouldn’t hire anybody like that. I think a large distinction for me is that I was eager to learn, I would show up on time, which means 15 minutes early, [and] I was never late … because I loved what we were doing, and I loved the industry.”